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Lowell -- The UMass Lowell Center for Family, Work and Community (CFWC), along with dozens of project supporters, celebrated the grand opening of the "Wormcycler" greenhouse this month, a major addition to the University's Compost Education and Demonstration Site on UMass Lowell South (EVENT PHOTOS AVAILABLE).
The seventeen by forty-four-foot greenhouse will house the now-famous "Red Wiggler" worms -- the core of CFWC's vermicomposting project which is recycling university food and yard waste into rich, usable compost.
The vermicomposting program, under the direction of the CFWC's Villareal and project manager David Turcotte, began as a small demonstration project housed in a utility room in an academic building. There, small amounts of food waste from local restaurants were broken down by a few thousand worms over a few days.
Since the composting potential of the earthworms is so great and the worms have multiplied so rapidly, the project needed more space. Over the past year, the Riverview Lot site on south campus has been undergoing development for this purpose, culminating in the completion of the Wormcycler.
According to the project consultant, and "worm tamer," Bruce Fulford, owner of City Soil and Greenhouse Company of Roslindale, the hoop-house structure will be able to handle several tons of recyclable waste, most of which will be provided by Aramark Food Services, the University's food service provider, and the Physical Plant Department.
"As it is, we should have about five tons of finished compost by springtime," says Fulford. "Ultimately, if we could expand even more on site, we could probably handle all of the University's annual yard and food waste."
"Presently, the University spends about $20,000 annually to have this waste hauled to a landfill about ten miles away," says Turcotte. He is hopeful that the money could be redirected into the management of the site.
Portions of the funding for the Wormcycler, and other aspects of the project, were provided by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Environmental Protection and the City of Lowell.
Villareal says the plan is to use the compost for projects on campus and to make the space available for educational programs with the Lowell Public Schools.